View Full Version : Grand Canyon 4/29-5/10 (very long #1)

05-17-2004, 01:57 PM
Well, here's my rafting/hiking trip report. I hope it's not too boring, but for anyone who tries a trip like this in the future, I can help with tips that make it easier. It's hard on New Englanders' bodies, that dry air causes some nasty side effects, such as swollen feet and ankles, and cracked fingertips, and dry sinuses. But it was worth every minute!

Grand Canyon 4/29-5/10/04

4/27/04 Tuesday
Pat, Patís brother Joe, Marge, and I flew into Phoenix and drove to Flagstaff, stopping in Black Canyon City for lunch. The exotic views from the restaurant window were of giant tangled cacti and mesquite trees among which had been placed a dozen or so very original birdhouses. One was a cowboy boot with the toe cut off and a roof on top. Pyrrhuloxias and Gambelís quail, among other species, frolicked in the heat with lots of lizards. That got us in the desert mood.

4/28/04 Wednesday
Off to Sedona for a grand hike up the North Wilson Trail towards Mt. Wilson, which we didnít have time to summit, but the views and wildflowers were outstanding. The ascent was eased by switchbacks, and the other side of the ridge featured a parklike plateau with beautiful cedars and junipers dotting the landscape. That evening we met our 32 fellow travelers, most of whom are from the West Coast, Washington in particular. The trip is organized by an individual, Joe Schuster, who contracts with Hatch River Expeditions. I was half afraid that it would be a zoo, with so many people in close proximity, but I worried needlessly.

4/29/04 Thursday
We were on the bus at 6 am and at Leeís Ferry at 8 am to start our trip. We met our 5 boatmen (2 were women), put on our PFDís, and got underway. We immediately passed the mouth of the Paria River (see Seemaís trip report) and our first rapid where we learned the benefits of the rain gear weíd put on. We heard about the history of John D. Lee, the Mormons, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The travelers of a wagon train, known to be unsympathetic to Mormons, were killed by an alleged group of Indians and Mormons, including Lee. It was the greatest number of Americans killed in this country until the Oklahoma slayings. The remnants of the Dugway road on the eastern banks are still visible, with stone walls lining the cliffside trail. It must have been a hairy ride! Starting to relax, we sat back and enjoyed the towering cliffs, learning to identify the different strata, and watching for birds: we saw peregrines, ibis, egrets, swallows, buffleheads, and first heard the song of the canyon wren which at first sounded like mortars being fired. This song accompanied us daily and became much beloved, like the white-throated sparrow back home.

We pulled over on a white sand beach for lunch. Large rainbow trout gathered in the shallows, checking us out. Getting around on the pontoon boats took some practice. One of our group fell in the river while hopping from one to the other. Refreshing, but the water temperature is around 50 in the upper canyon. I had no idea that it would be so magnificent from the very start.

Later we stopped at North Canyon and hiked in. This was where we started to get used to the fact that we were going to be doing a lot of wet hiking. One person tried to straddle the canyon walls to keep his boots dry, only to fall in and get completely wet. I had agonized over what boots to take, and I made the lucky choice of my Lowa Tanarks, which gave me no problems, even though they were wet throughout one 10 hour hike. They never did get completely dry throughout the trip. Patís old EMS Summits, on the other hand, had to be trashed at the end of the trip. North Canyon had masses of red monkeyflowers blooming in the creek, with mesquite, tamarisk, and acacia trees shading them. Maidenhair ferns were hanging from the ledges wherever there was a seep. Tamarisk, or salt-cedar, is an invader brought in to control erosion and has escaped throughout the Canyon. It grows even in apparently solid rock!

We camped at Silver Grotto, had a steak dinner, and were asleep by 8:30 pm. The food was always fabulous, even the sumptuous sandwiches we would assemble for lunch. There was always fresh fruit, lemonade, cookies, etc. available.

4/30/04 Friday
We were up at 4:45, a nice chilly night with the roar of rapids for music. The river had risen 3 feet during the night (release from Glen Canyon Dam) and was lapping at a few of the tents. It took me a few days to get organized, to realize I had brought too much clothing, and I ended up living in the same solar shirt and long pants the entire 12 days, just jumping fully clothed into the river at the end of each day with some soap. You do all your washing and peeing in the Colorado river, but no soap is allowed anywhere near the tributaries, and no peeing on the shore. Otherwise it would smell, due to lack of rain to wash it away. We were amazed by the cleanliness of the entire Canyon. I picked up only one scrap of candy wrapper.

First stop was the Redwall Cavern, at least a hundred feet deep, with thousands of critter tracks in the sand. The sand is a fine powder, and we would soon get accustomed to it as a constant presence in our ears, noses, mouths, books, clothesÖ

Next stop was Saddle Canyon, with a steep talus approach, some crotch-deep wading, and a 10-foot waterfall to climb. Not everyone in the group was an experienced hiker, but everyone exceeded their own expectations during the trip, tackling dizzying cliffwalks and hoisting themselves over obstacles with and without ropes. The trees and shrubs in the canyon were very varied: willows, redbuds, potentilla, shrub live oak that looks just like holly, to name a few. The beavertail cactus was magnificent, and we learned to step carefully near the cacti. Even waving oneís arm could result in a dozen spines lodging in the hand. The crew set up lunch at a pool and waterfall and we sat enjoying the cool shade.

A dozen sandpipers scurried about at the mouth of the canyon.

We pulled in at the confluence of the Little Colorado River. It has an incredible blue-turquoise color, just like toilet bowl cleaner. After a short walk, we put on our PFDís diaper-style, jumped in the warm water, and floated feet-first down the rapids. Even some of the reluctant folks couldn't resist the whooping and hollering and dived in too. Huge carp were lurking about in some of the pools.

We camped across the river at mile 63. Grilled chicken, corn, rice, salad with cranberries and walnuts, and pound cake with raspberries and whipped cream for dinner. In bed at 7:30. The stars are incredible. Venus, Jupiter, many satellites, some shooting stars. Later in the trip we were under the flight path for Las Vegas, but the sound barely penetrated to us.

5/1/04 Saturday
I havenít enjoyed that 5 am cup of coffee so much in years, sitting on the beach staring at the rock.

Our hike today was a Carbon Canyon/Lava Canyon loop. A little bouldering brought us to a good old-fashioned New England-type talus slide which we found very easy compared to tiptoeing over slickrock. This brought us to a wonderful open area where we could see the North Rim in the distance and rolling multi-colored sandstone hills all around. Lava Canyon is just that: black shiny rock contrasting with the redwall limestone across the river.

A little way along, we stopped at Clear Creek, scrambled over a steep basalt outcrop, walked up the canyon, and luxuriated under the waterfall for a long time. Everyone is getting comfortable with each other and good conversation is blossoming, when weíre not too tired or overawed to talk at all.

We floated past 2 bridges and the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch and camped at Trinity Canyon on a broad beautiful sand beach. Salmon and asparagus for dinner.

5/2/04 Sunday
Iíve been losing track of the days. Thereís nothing to intrude on the serenity or excitement that each day brings. What a joy not to have a single clunker in the group!

Todayís hike was a Monument/Hermit Creek loop. The Monument is a 30 foot monolith of Tapeats sandstone. We wedged our way up a tiny creek in polished rock, encountered a sleepy rattlesnake, and set off on a winding way across the high desert. It was very hot, I was getting nauseous and was relieved to get to our lunch spot on Hermit Creek, under a cool ledge with ferns. There were small fish in the water. The way back to the boats was IN the water, with great delight. We were lucky to get Bass Campsite for the night and the next night, since our choice of hikes depended on good positioning.

05-17-2004, 02:48 PM
Nice report. Pictures?

Thanks for the positive feedback on Wilson Mt. We're heading to AZ next week, and that's a hike we wanted to do.